Downtown Houston shows signs of life after Hurricane Harvey finally leaves

Downtown Houston shows signs of life after Hurricane Harvey departs

Houston, downtown storms, August 2017
Downtown Houston during the storm. Courtesy of ABC13.com

With Tropical Storm Harvey finally gone, downtown Houston is slowly returning to life.

While most downtown streets were deserted on Wednesday, the George R. Brown Convention Center and nearby Toyota Center on the east side were the focus of significant activity as the temporary home for thousands of evacuees. The Telepsen YMCA, on downtown's south side, is open during daytime hours and hosted a lively Zumba fundraiser for Harvey flood victims Wednesday afternoon. (The downtown Y is open 10 am - 6 pm today and Friday and is open over the weekend for limited hours and on Labor Day.)

The area around Minute Maid Park is also expected to be a hub of activity this weekend when the Astros return home to play the New York Mets in a doubleheader on Saturday and one game on Sunday. 

“We feel that the Astros playing this weekend will provide a much-needed boost for our city,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement issued by the Astros. “With all the difficulties that many of our citizens are facing, the games will provide an opportunity for families to start returning to some aspect of normal life.”

"Overall, Downtown has fared well and is stable," an assessment by the Downtown District concludes, noting that Buffalo Bayou water levels in the area continue to recede. Water-damaged buildings are located primarily in the northern and western areas of downtown, including the Warehouse, Historic and Theater Districts. The only part of the tunnel system that flooded was adjacent to the Theater District and Civic Center garages.

The Downtown District noted the following buildings received damage, primarily with water in first level/basement spaces:

  • Spaghetti Warehouse, 901 Commerce
  • Sunset Coffee Building, 1019 Commerce
  • 800 Commerce, law offices
  • AIA Houston (u/c), 900 Commerce
  • One Main and Student Life Buildings, University of Houston Downtown
  • Willow Street Pump Station, University of Houston Downtown
  • Dakota Lofts, 711 William
  • mArchitects, 1206 Nance
  • Oxheart/Theadore Rex (u/c), 1302 Nance
  • Cotton Exchange Bldg, 202 Travis
  • Bayou Lofts, 915 Franklin
  • The Rice, 909 Texas
  • Market Square Tower
  • Hogg Palace, 401 Louisiana
  • Chase Motor Bank, 212 Milam
  • Magnolia Ballroom, 715 Franklin
  • Theater District and Tranquillity Garages
  • Bayou Place
  • Downtown  Aquarium
  • Houston Ballet Center for Dance, 601 Preston
  • Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas
  • Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana
  • Alley Theatre, 615 Texas
  • Hobby Center, 800 Bagby
  • City Hall and City Hall Annex
  • Sam Houston Park/Historic Homes
  • 1415 Fannin (fire damage)

Most downtown streets are open, although some freeway exit ramps leading into the area remain impassable. There are isolated outages in the Historic District and Harris County complex; CenterPoint Energy is working to restore power. A few traffic signals are out in the north end.

Many downtown events are being canceled or rescheduled. Among those are the BBVA Compass POPS Series, Ella at 100, scheduled for September 1-3 at Jones Hall. "While the Jones Hall stage and auditorium show no discernible damage, all levels of the Theater District Garages are flooded and are therefore completely unusable," the Houston Symphony explained in a release.

A spokesperson for Houston First, which manages The Theater District garages, said pumps are flushing out water from the subterranean areas at this time. Then the garages have to be inspected for structural damage and electrical problems. "We are taking this day by day," she said.

Activity is expected to pick up next week after Labor Day, when employees return to work and such downtown schools as Incarnate Word Academy, South Texas College of Law and University of Houston Downtown resume classes on September 5.